Connecting toys to science

Thanks to a new wave of connected toys tweens will soon be able to get their hands on a friendship bracelet that teaches them the basics of programming. While for younger coders, robots that can be programmed to “do just about anything,” are entering the classroom. DiscovHER explores how the smart toy revolution may encourage girls into STEM.

Dash & Dot: A robot to teach programming in kindergarten

Billed as robot toys that teach kids to program, Dash & Dot come endorsed by educators. These robots which can hear sounds and navigate objects – and are Blue-tooth connected - come with lesson plans for kindergarten up to Grade 5. More than 600 schools across the U.S. are using Dash & Dot to teach computer science.

Jewelbot: A bracelet to teach tweens to code

2015’s answer to the friendship bracelet is a Bluetooth connected accessory that can be programmed. To light up when a friend is near or to buzz when its wearer gets a message, for instance. For its inventors, Sara Chipps and Brooke Moreland, Jewelbots is intended to teach girls to code at a time when they typically take up other pursuits. As stated by its founders:

Using basic engineering logic, girls can program their Jewelbots to do just about anything they—and their besties-turned-collaborators—dream up, opening their minds to STEM during an age when many lose interest.

Jewelbots’ CEO Chipps is co-founder of Girl Develop It!, a nonprofit organisation that provides affordable computer programming lessons for women – and has taught over 17,000 women how to build software. Launching soon, Jewelbots raised three times its’ kickstarter goal in nine days.

Fostering learning through smart play

Dr Stevanne Auerbach, is an educator and child development specialist known as Dr Toy, who lauds the latest expansion in initiatives to support STEM:

A great deal of thought has gone into the creation of intelligent products that foster learning. There is a growing support and more focus on STEM as an important area for the improvement of education. Each product can help expand important skills, and increase general and specific abilities. 

Not all toys should be smart

Yet in the face of ever smarter toy shelves, Dr Auerbach says the future of merging play and learning should not be limited to technology But rather, to providing girls with a full range of products from gyroscopes to science kits, apps, contruction blocks like LEGO and KNEX, and others so that each contribute to better understanding the value of hands-on experiences, science, and the basics of programming to facilitate diverse interests

Have you ever heard of toys encouraging girls to learn science? Let us know at @4womeninscience!

Trained in child psychology, education, special education, and child development, Dr. Auerbach, is a leading expert on children’s play. With 45 years of experience, Dr. Auerbach selects the most educational, skill-building toys in her annual toy Awards. She is the founder of Dr Toy's Guide, and author of "Smart Play Smart Toys".

Dr. Auerbach earned a BA in Education and Psychology at the Queens College, an MA in Special Education at the George Washington University and a Ph.D. in Child Development and Psychology at the Union Institute. She has written 15 books on toys, play, parenting and childcare.

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